S.T.E.L.M.

STELM: Science, Technology, Engineering (Literacy?!) and Math 

STEM activities are unmatched in our virtual Kindergarten class this year. STEM challenges are the perfect storm for beginning conversations, exploring inquiries, answering questions and challenging new ideas. In addition to the academic learning happening through these challenges, students also have opportunities to practice patience, persistence, problem-solving strategies and critical thinking skills while engaging meaningfully within their classroom community. 

Recently, I have been on my own exploration. I have been investigating how to purposefully incorporate literacy connections into STEM activities. Here are some of our literacy inspired “STELM” challenges students have worked through: 

10 on the Sled – by: Kim Norman, illustrated by: Liza Woodruff

STELM Challenge: Create a sled that can hold ten animals.

Our students were so excited for this challenge. They used materials that they could find around their homes to build a sled and found objects of their choice to represent the ten animals. Students engaged in conversations about the number 10 and how they could group the seats for all the passengers to fit on the sled. In the picture above, the student wrote themselves into the story and shared they would also like to ride on the sled. They shared that now there would be 11 seats because “10+1=11”.

Not a Box – by: Antoinette Portis

STELM Challenge: What can you make your box into?

This one feels like a classic. So simple, but so open-ended and thought provoking. The experience of creating something from “nothing” seems to come so naturally to Kindergarten students. No matter how many groups of students I do this activity with, I am always learning from them. I feel like this challenge gives me a window into student’s imaginations and undoubtedly strengthen’s my view of them as competent and capable learners full of wonder.

The Most Magnificent Thing – by: Ashley Spires

STELM Challenge: What is the most magnificent thing you can make?

Similarly to the challenge of creating something from a box, students thoughts and ideas were not limited to using a box. We did however, challenge them to use recycled materials found at home. Before beginning the process, we listened to the story ‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ by Ashley Spires and asked students to draw a plan before beginning construction. Students entered this activity at their own level. Their plans consisted of pictures, words and symbols to represent their ideas. Not all of their plans matched their finished products – but this was part of the process. The changes and challenges students faced while building their magnificent ‘things’ were a springboard for conversations about different ways to solve problems. One of my favourite moments of learning that happened during this task occurred after I shared my own frustration with my tape that “just would not come off the roll in one piece”. “That’s ok Ms. Turnbull” one of our students shared, “That happened to me once too”, “me too!” other students exclaimed, as we talked about different ways to solve this problem effectively.

The Very Cranky Bear – by: Nick Bland

STELM Challenge: Design a bed for the cranky bear to get some rest in.

We have all experienced the feeling of being tired, cranky, upset or frustrated. So many wonderful conversations of empathy and understanding came from this challenge. Students amazed us with their kind words towards this cranky bear as they constructed cozy beds. They were excited to test out their beds made from LEGO, Play-Doh, blocks and more by using their stuffed animals or dolls. They began acting out the story, snoring and roaring like the bear.

The Mitten – by: Jan Brett

STELM Challenge: How many ‘animals’ can you fit inside a mitten or sock?

The story ‘The Mitten’ by Jan Brett has endless possibilities in regard to follow up activities. For our group of Kindergarten students, we challenged them to think about capacity after listening to this story. We asked them to find something to use as ‘animals’ (with some of the top choices being LEGO or toy animals), and a sock or mitten to put them in. Students explored concepts of counting, spatial sense, and sequencing while they created their own versions of the story.

I am excited to continue thinking about ways to provide my students with meaningful and literacy rich learning opportunities while they engage in hands on experiences that challenge their thinking.

In what ways are literacy experiences imbedded into your STEM activities?

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Here we go again…

Remote learning is here again and after three days of synchronous teaching this week, it feels like a deja vu of last year. I spent September to June teaching remotely from my office last year after being surplussed from my school. To be back in the same office teaching remotely is quite a challenging feeling, especially since we all know the toll it takes on kids to be out of the classroom.

For students at my school, being in the classroom is essential. That word has been used a lot in the past three years and it seems to hold a lot of weight. Being in the classroom is essential for so many reasons. Our food program provides the first meal of the day for many and is not available now that we are online. The connections in the classroom help students who have felt isolated for so long and they were so happy this September to finally start making these connections again. The ability to play on a sports team that is free and is developmental is so important for those in our community. Having a caring adult who is always there to listen and to help is a must during these times. Being online takes away most of those essential opportunities.

I have been reading many articles this week that spoke to me. My favourite read was this article:

https://www.macleans.ca/society/the-cruel-ridiculous-reality-of-virtual-learning/?fbclid=IwAR2iS0pFaMpavoWSZLi0MmGvNHaUHccAgc7s7IbbH4-cs8ymegSFjB4Bq_A

This article speaks about many of the problems with children learning at home, disengaged from their peers. It is really interesting to hear things from a parent point of view who try to juggle their children’s schedules while also doing their own job. Worth a read for anyone wanting to hear another perspective.

Last year, we made it work as the vaccine roll out started and many parents were uncomfortable sending their unvaccinated child into the classroom. This time, we have access to these resources and we have done all we can. It is time to stay in the classroom and never be taken out again.

However, I can celebrate some small successes this week as I always try to look for a few positives in a dark situation:

  • 18 of my 24 students were able to get access to technology and they signed in and came online
  • 3 out of my 24 students turned their cameras on which was great as I could see their reactions while I was teaching
  • Two of my students who rarely complete tasks in the classroom completed many tasks this week
  • One of my students who does not speak throughout the day connected online in the chat
  • One of my students with attendance issues signed in all three days this week

So even though remote learning is in no way the best option for children, some students thrive in this setting.

I am also taking advantage of this online time to begin coding with my class as this is the only time we will have 1:1 technology. We have started the Express Course 2021 on http://code.org The website tracks the progress of each student and lets me know who is online and learning. It covers both the grade seven and eight curriculum content for coding. The students can learn to code sprites to move, work with loops, functions and even design their own app. I am thankful for the devices that we are currently able to have since it would not be possible to start coding without them. Last year my students used Scratch and it was not that user friendly, especially since I could not walk into their homes and help them with their tasks. This program is much more reliable and easy to understand.

So all in all, it has been a long week with many ups and downs. At the end of 2021, I told my students there was really no way we could end up online and now here we are again. I hope that we can go back into the classroom soon as we all know the benefits that it provides to each and every student. I commend my fellow educators who are teaching at home and some with their own children home too. I cannot imagine juggling both. Keep at it everyone and we will get through this, once again.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought unique and unprecedented challenges to teaching. ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that in-person instruction and learning in publicly-funded schools provides the best experience for learning, quality delivery and is the most equitable model for all students. In order to support educators during remote learning, several resources have been created to support members.

Media Sites for Students: www.cbc.ca/kids

Throughout the past year, particularly online, I am always looking for ways to include meaningful media content for my students. While researching coding, I came across content on www.cbc.ca/kids that I found very useful in terms of the following categories:

*Articles: the content is kid friendly in terms of the language and includes serious topics in a way that doesn’t get into graphic details (such as reconciliation). The students enjoyed seeing examples of technology around the world and there are many topics that are searchable, from “Arts” to multicultural celebrations. Plus, you know that the site is reputable with its content which is important for kids nowadays to assess the accuracy of their digital sources. There are many Canadian focused articles as well as content from around the world.

*Videos and Quizzes/polls: if you are looking for a more interactive experience, search through various topics and find mini questionnaires like “would you rather” and multiple choice trivia. Last year one student was so excited about the video game quiz he called over his dad on the Meet and they both had a blast playing along with their “old school” and “Gen Z” knowledge.

*Games: there are a variety of simple computer games that don’t require downloading or apps that students even young primaries can navigate: in fact, we explore this every week with the online kindergarten class. The games are organized by categories such as puzzles or strategy and even have a three star rating system for students to communicate their thoughts. We also used the games in coding to discuss how simple they would be to create. There are even seasonal selections for different celebrations, including non-denominational ones such as build a digital snowman. Once again, the games are safe in terms of content, lack of needing to sign in with an account which is sometimes an issue with finding internet games online.

If I could change one thing about the site, it is that there doesn’t appear to be a French language option to include students from the FSL program. But all in all, this is a great resource for students of all elementary grades (and a good resource to have on hand in the event of an emergency supply day, or an afternoon where students need some down time while still following the curriculum before the break).

Reframing our mindsets around pandemic learning and reporting

Now that the busy-ness of progress report season is winding down, I’ve been reflecting on my reporting practices and the big picture of how reporting looks for us this year. I know I’m not the only educator in my school building who struggled to write progress reports this year, but I did find it interesting how these struggles looked different for many of my colleagues. My biggest strife? The reporting structures we follow reflect narratives of “learning loss” and “achievement gaps” when, in fact, my virtual students show up and try their best every single day. 

When I think about the big picture of how teaching and learning has looked since March 2020, especially as a 100% virtual teacher myself, I struggle to accept the fact that our reporting structures have not been adapted to consider the effects of trauma, isolation, and deterioration of mental health on students. Should we be writing traditional report cards at all? How can we provide meaningful feedback and assessment that considers the context of teaching and learning through a pandemic?

In spite of barriers maintained by the traditional report card, I try to make a concerted effort to always understand individual student experiences and contexts to adapt to pandemic learning. To push myself further, I remind myself to look at some of the dualities that exist in online student engagement to reframe my mindset:

  • Students are desperate for socialization as they learn by themselves from home—behaviour that is usually considered to be disruptive in the classroom is actually a courageous effort to build friendships.
  • Students are always willing to be their best selves in online school, while also feeling unable to bring themselves to complete work some days. 
  • Students choose to keep their cameras off, resulting in them feeling like they can be their truest selves—independent from their physical appearance.

When we only use learning skills and grades to evaluate student character and academic progress, we are sure to miss their best and bravest moments as learners. How might we include a reframed mindset around pandemic learning within current structures of reporting? There are countless conversations to be had about assessment and reporting from a critical perspective, and I’m looking forward to building on these reflections and connecting with educators who are asking similar questions. 

Moving forward I’m thinking a lot about how I can push my gradeless assessment practices even further and look at the ways that character education and learning skills can be an inequitable way of understanding student achievement. I can’t wait to share these thoughts here! 

Note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that in-person instruction and learning in publicly-funded schools provides the best experience for learning, quality delivery and is the most equitable model for all students. ETFO will continue to demand action from the government, school boards and public health units to ensure in-person learning can resume quickly and safely.

Milo Imagines The World

This year I am teaching a prep teacher. In this role, I am teaching a Grade 1/2 class virtually and it’s so interesting for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it’s been years since I have taught a primary grade. Secondly, in the past, I have had the opportunity to teach in person and when we’ve had to switch to virtual, we had already established our classroom community. Seeing these students virtually for only 40 minutes, 3 times a week, I’m slowly getting to know more about them and their interests. Last but not least, I’m teaching STEM and it’s been interesting thinking about access to materials when students are virtual and making sure that I keep in mind that STEM isn’t a specific subject or thing but rather a mindset that includes the development of a variety of skills, over time. 

As I have for years with many of my classes, I started this year with a picture book. This year’s book was Milo Imagines the World.  The publisher’s website describes the book as follows:

Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.

We took our time digging through the pages and the imaginations of Milo as we read. I found the teacher’s guide helpful when it came to posing questions at different parts of the story and also being able to address Milo visiting his mom at the correctional facility. I found the rich conversations around families and our perceptions of others based on their looks so interesting because of the age of these students. Once again, the little people of the world rose to the occasion and we were able to have conversations about these important issues.

As a culminating activity for this book, students – like Milo – created their own images about their lives. We called these posters and spoke about how they share key information with our audience. Once we learned about colours and the size of our font, students got to organizing their own posters that shared different things about themselves with the rest of the class. From their family structures to things they like and are of significance to them, the students had the opportunity to present their posters to the class. Given the option to do it digitally or on paper, many choose to do their own drawings on paper and it was really neat to see their own stories come to life on their pages. It was a great way for me to get to know the students as they eagerly shared about themselves. 

As the year progresses, I’m hoping to continue to build on the classroom community we have already started. Critical and essential conversations around identity can be had at any age. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to start off the year this way and  I also look forward to working with students around building skills in creative ways. This is totally new for me and I’m interested in seeing where this takes us.

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Play-Time: Virtual Style

As we are nearing the end of September, I begin to reflect on my first month as a virtual Kindergarten teacher. When creating our timetable for the school year, my teaching partner and I dedicated 30 minutes each day to unstructured, open play. 

During this 30 minute block, students share what they are playing with and discuss what they are building, creating or thinking. My teaching partner and I act as facilitators and extend learning by asking questions or helping students make connections between what they are playing (something that takes place naturally within classroom settings but takes some practice virtually). This practice seems unnatural at first, but with time the students are becoming more confident and excited to share. 

Here are the benefits of virtual play so far: 

  1. Play is universal and accessible for all of our learners regardless of ability
  2. Play is an opportunity for our English Language Learners to learn in a relevant and meaningful way while exploring the English language 
  3. Play is a great way for us as educators to get to know our learners, their interests and in what ways they like to learn 
  4. Virtual play gives our students the time and space to create relationships with educators and peers
  5. Play is an ‘easy to enter’ activity that gives students confidence in their own abilities and allows them to take safe risks while exploring new ideas, asking questions and challenging new theories 
  6. Including virtual play allows students to practice what they are learning while providing educators a window into their understandings
  7. Virtual play is fun and students look forward to it daily

As we continue to scaffold student learning and conversations during play, it is our hope that the play grows rich with language, ideas and creates connections between students virtually. 

It feels as though this virtual play time has similar (if not the same) benefits as play time held during in person learning. Here are some of the major differences and barriers that we have seen so far:

  1. Students do not all have the same materials
  2. Students are becoming comfortable engaging in dramatic play experiences with each other but cannot collaborate with learning materials or practice sharing toys
  3. Play happens all the time, every day. We are not often viewing students play experiences outdoors or in areas outside of their learning space. 
  4. Students take time to unmute themselves before sharing. For those learning this new skill, the task of unmuting in itself can derail the student’s thought process. Unmuting can take time away from a students ability to share their natural and initial thoughts, feelings and ideas (Next step: playing in a small group). 

Overall, play time has been a very special time in our virtual Kindergarten classroom. We will continue to evolve and listen to our students, as we navigate our way though challenges and grow as virtual play partners. 

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.
ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Myth of Hybrid Multitasking

woman with multiple arms holds several pieces of paper

I decided to write this blog after reading an article in the Globe and Mail about getting off our cell phones. According to the article “Phone use depraves us of the quality of our sleep, our productivity, and our creativity. It is linked to heightened levels of anxiety and depression, diminished sexual satisfaction, compromised child-parent relationships and so much more.” (Leszcz, July 24th, 2021, Globe and Mail, Technology Section, p. 6-7). With phone in hand, we have established multitasking in our lives.

This got me thinking about how distracting teaching is during the hybrid model. Here, teachers must attend to students in class, students online, technology to run the class, and the lesson taught. In hybrid multitasking, teachers’ attention is pulled in many directions. The question is “How effective can teachers be in this environment?”

The Myth of Multitasking

There’s a myth that multitasking increases people’s ability to do many things effectively at once. However, after reading some psychology texts, I’ve found this myth is not true in real life.

According to Paul Atchley, Ph.D. (associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kansas), “Based on over a half-century of cognitive science and more recent studies on multitasking, we know that multitaskers do less and miss information. It takes time (an average of 15 minutes) to re-orient to a primary task after a distraction such as an email. Efficiency can drop by as much as 40%. Long-term memory suffers and creativity — a skill associated with keeping in mind multiple, less common, associations — is reduced.”

This means, with multitasking, our ability to do work decreases, making us less effective. Even though the human brain has billions of neurons and many trillions of connections, humans are incapable of doing multiple things at the same time. Instead, what happens, is that human brains switch tasks choosing which information to process (Archley, 2010). When “you listen to speech, your visual cortex becomes less active, so when you talk on the phone to a client and work on your computer at the same time, you literally hear less of what the client is saying” (Archley, 2010.)

Technology Distracts Us from Our Life

Archley states that technological distractions make us unaware of the demands it puts on our information processing capacity. He also states that humans “crave access to more information because it makes us comfortable. People tend to search for information that confirms what they already believe. Multiple sources of confirmation increase our confidence in our choices.” Problems arise as more information “leads to discomfort, because some of it might be conflicting. As a result, we then search for more confirmatory information” (Archley, 2010.)

Multitasking Leads to Memory Problems

Overall, multitasking leads to problems with memory – which would account for the noted decrease in my executive function since teaching synchronously online and in the hybrid model.

What can people do to improve their ability to function? How can we prevent our brains from becoming overloaded?

  1. Do one thing at a time
    • Try to complete one task at a time or until attention fades (which is after about 18 minutes according to Archley)
    • If you need to go back to a task, write a note as a reminder – I do this all the time
  1. Work in a spot that has few distractions so you can focus
    • close the door in the room in which you are working (Archley, 2010)
    • set a time to work and provide yourself breaks as needed
  1. Realize that not all information is useful
    • information includes information sourced from phones, computers, radio, TV, etc. via blogs, posts, texts etc.
    • ask yourself if this information is worth interrupting your work
    • consider your use of social media and the time it takes out of your life and how it uses up your executive function
    • consider how your time on your tablet or phone is impacting your relationships with others
    • “know the difference between social networks, which are likely to confirm your choices and therefore make you feel good, and knowledge networks, which might challenge them, and therefore help you make a better decision” (Archley, 2010)

With regards to using our cell phones prudently, Benjamin Leszcz (2021) makes the following suggestions:

  1. Put down your phone when paying attention to others
    • When talking to someone, make eye contact, listen carefully, be present with the person
    • Leszcz writes “phones don’t just diminish our performance as friends; they also make us inferior parents” (2021) – ask yourself, How is your phone impacting your relationships with your children and partner?
    • During meals, phones should never be at the table, or a bar or even in children’s bedrooms.
    • People in our lives deserve our undivided attention – so put your phone away and pay attention to them!
  1. Put away all phones
    • Phones should be either face down on our desks or in a drawer, a bag, a pocket … away from our attention
    • Best place for a phone is in another room – I do this but then get complaints as to why I have not attended to text or answered calls
    • Don’t check your emails all the time – I also get complaints about not reading and responding to emails immediately … but consider in real life, if something is so critical it needs my attention, then someone will get a hold of me using another vector
    • At staff meetings, teachers should not be on their phones as it distracts them from actually hearing information conveyed
  1. Phones interrupt our capacity to learn and read keeping us in a state of hyperattention (Dr. Turkle cited in Leszcz, 2021)
    • Bite sized information make us weary of actually reading long text like books or newspaper articles
    • Marshall McLuhan wrote “A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace.”
    • Phones distract us from written text and real life conversations, as Leszcz states, “Keeping a phone nearby while reading a book is like putting a plate of fries beside your salad”
  1. “When we are paying attention to nothing at all, we should put our phones away” (Leszcz, 2021)
    • Phones constantly distract us from life by keeping us connected
    • Even in our leisure time phones are present getting us to send another text or take another photo – instead of just enjoying the place we are in
    • “Phones rob us of the moments we can be free, letting our minds rest or wander” (Leszcz, 2021)
    • Phones have us using our executive function all the time and without a break our long-term memory can be diminished (Archley, 2010)

Leszcz warns us about the consequences of using cell phones and technology less … as withdrawal symptoms are likely. We may find breaks from technology give us the feeling of being on vacation. Technology vacations may result in building deeper relationships and reconnecting with our family and our partners in more ways than just talking.

In the end, this research shows that human beings were never meant to attend to so many things at once. Knowing this, I can make the following statements about hybrid teaching and learning:

  • Teachers should not have to attend to students synchronously at home and at school as it makes us less effective as teachers.
  • Teachers should not have to teach using the hybrid model as it is bad for our brains, our attention, and our relationships.

Collaboratively,

Deb Weston, PhD

References

Atchley, P. (December 21, 2010). You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying, Harvard Business Review Downloaded from https://hbr.org/2010/12/you-cant-multi-task-so-stop-tr (July 25, 2021).

Leszcz, B. (July 24, 2021). After the pandemic, let’s deal with our phone addictions. Here are three rules to follow, Globe and Mail, Downloaded from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-after-the-pandemic-lets-deal-with-our-phone-addictions-here-are-three/ (July 25, 2021).

Attendance Question

NOTE: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students. ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

What is a practice that you started during online learning that you’d like to continue during in person learning? My favourite is the “Attendance Question”. This daily question screen capture is from the Padlet I set up for my Grade 4 students during an LTO I had this school year.

Every morning, students logged onto our Google Meet and their first task was to answer the daily attendance question. We loved it! Here’s why:

  • Students loved expressing themselves and sharing short bits of information with me and their classmates
  • On Padlet, students are able to both ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on each others posts to ask questions, offer advice or celebrate each others ideas
  • As an educator I loved the check in – first of all I was comforted knowing students were present but mostly I loved it for social-emotional connections
  • Students looked forward to signing on and checking the attendance question and even directed each other towards it
  • It built a great sense of community within our online classroom

I plan to continue using Padlet for daily check-ins with students. Although this platform could be used to get students thinking about new topics within the curriculum, a daily thought provoking question is something that could be introduced in September and carried through until the end of the school year.

During in person learning, I love to embed community circle into each day in some capacity in order to give sharing space to students and work on social and emotional competencies. While learning remotely, the attendance question was used to support community circle. I want to continue this practice to support community circle during in person learning to give students who are hesitant or unable to share aloud a space to express themselves.

In the 2020-2021 school year, navigating technology and all it had to offer was overwhelming to say the least. As I reflect on the heavy use of technology that my students experienced – I remain open-minded towards carrying virtual practices that removed barriers for students into the classroom.

Top Ten Tips for Attending Virtual Professional Learning for Educators

So much learning is happening virtually now and it is amazing.  I recently attended a virtual EdTech Conference in Nebraska!  This is an opportunity I never would have been able to take advantage of before the pandemic.  I have attended a number of virtual conferences during COVID and I’ve also organized and facilitated virtual learning over the last year and it is a different way to get your learn on!

In order to really get the most out of Virtual Professional Learning here are my go-to suggestions:

  1.  Organize your time and your conference selections in advance.  If there are many choices, take the time to do the research on the session and on the presenter. If there are digital links for presentations on the conference site to add into a digital tote-do it before your sessions so that you aren’t tempted to leave the session in order to do so.  Thank you ISTE LIVE 21  for the digital tote feature!
  2. Be PRESENT.  Be mindful and intentional about your learning.  If it isn’t the kind of learning that you were expecting, hop over to another session otherwise you’ll be resentful of wasted time and learning.
  3. Put your “out of office” email message on and don’t check your email.  If you were in an in-person setting, checking your email would be rude. This is time for your learning so treasure and protect that time.
  4. When possible attend LIVE sessions not asynchronous or previously recorded sessions.  LIVE sessions have opportunities to engage and ask questions which makes the learning is deeper.
  5. Have a PLP (Professional Learning Partner) or two! No one really wants to go to a conference by themselves. Some of the best learning takes place when you share what you learned in a session that your PLP wasn’t able to attend! You double the learning!
  6. Participate in the learning.  If there is a chat feature then put who you are and where you are from in the chat.  Ask questions, engage and connect.  This is where you grow your Professional Learning Network.  In a face to face conference you would sit down and meet new people.  Think of how you would engage with others in a real conference setting.
  7. TWEET! TWEET!  Get the conference hashtag, follow it, retweet and tweet about your learning and the presenters.  Follow those presenters and give them a shoutout. Take a picture of the slide that they are sharing and post it (without people’s faces and names in it.)  It is awesome as a facilitator to see the tweets afterwards.  It is timely feedback and motivational for the presenter.
  8. Take notes.  My PLPs and I recently collaborated on note taking using a Google Slide deck while attending a conference.  We pasted links, took screenshots and put notes of important information into the slide deck so we have the learning for later.
  9. Participate.  As a presenter, it isn’t nice to present to the empty boxes on Zoom or Webex. Just as in person, it is nice to see the reaction of the audience to pace yourself and to know that they are still with you! That being said, if you are eating or dealing with your dog or family or have decided to multi-task, leaving your camera on can be distracting for the participants and the presenter.  If there is a question asked in the chat, respond! There is nothing like being a presenter left hanging.  If there is a poll, a word cloud, a Jamboard,or a Kahoot, play along! The presenter created these things in order to make the presentation interactive for the adult learner.
  10.  Take Breaks.  Make sure you look carefully at the schedule (and the time zone) in order to plan your screen, water, coffee, bathroom, movement or snack breaks.

The most important thing to remember is that the presenters put time and effort to share their learning and expertise with you.  It is nerve-wracking to present to a group of educators.  Tech savvy people have tech issues too.  Give presenters grace and remember to thank them and provide feedback for their work and expertise.  They will appreciate it!

 

“Healthy” Eating 101

The Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum requires students in Grades 1-8 to learn about healthy and active living. The curriculum document stresses the importance of healthy eating and the relationship between healthy food choices and strength of the body and the brain’s preparedness to grow and learn. Sounds ideal right? 

Talking about the positive benefits of foods that are high in nutrients, vitamins or those classified as “healthy foods” must be done with extreme caution. Idealizing certain foods or food groups has the potential to demonize foods that don’t fit neatly into the “health” category. 

Seemingly innocent activities such as ‘colour in the healthy foods’ disregards the role and existence that “unhealthy” foods have in our world. Potato chips, french fries, chocolate, milkshakes – they are here (and they are awesome). Students need to hear that these foods are awesome, and they can be enjoyed and loved. Food is good for our bodies. Sharing food with people we love is good for our bodies – and essential for our mental health. 

How to avoid demonizing food or food groups:

  1. Refer to those above mentioned delicious foods as “sometimes” foods
  2. Talk about how food is not only a part of daily life, but culture, celebrations and traditions 
  3. Talk about the various ways in which people eat across different households and around the world 
  4. Talk about ingredients that are in food 
  5. Talk about how your body feels after eating food
  6. Talk with students about prices of food and why people may choose buying one food over another
  7. Talk with students about how to make food!
  8. And, when we are no longer teaching in a pandemic, make food! Share food together as a community. 

Disordered eating knows no boundaries. Eating disorders exist across all demographics of human beings. We don’t know every student’s relationship with food, nor do we know the relationship with food that our students see at home with their families. 

With love from a teacher who has personally struggled with her own relationship with food: Please, proceed with caution.

 

 

 

Ophea: Healthy Eating Resources https://teachingtools.ophea.net/activities/level-up/program-guide/healthy-eating

School Mental Health Ontario https://smho-smso.ca/

Canadian Mental Health Association https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/understanding-and-finding-help-for-eating-disorders/